Re­mem­ber­ing ter­ror vic­tims

To­day (Fri­day) is the first an­niver­sary of the ji­hadist at­tacks

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By James Parkes

TO­DAY (Fri­day) marks the first an­niver­sary of the rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Barcelona and Cam­brils that cost the lives of 16 peo­ple and in­jured over 155 oth­ers of 35 dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties - in­clud­ing Bri­tish and Ir­ish cit­i­zens.

Spe­cial trib­utes have been or­gan­ised by Barcelona city hall for the oc­ca­sion to­day and may­oress Ada Co­lau has in­sisted ' po­lit­i­cal is­sues must be left aside'.

Among those who have con­firmed their at­ten­dance are King Felipe VI, Queen Le­tizia, PM Pe­dro Sánchez, and Cata­lan re­gional pres­i­dent Quim Torra.

Cata­lan na­tion­al­ist as­so­ci­a­tions had ini­tially called to boy­cott the event due to the con­firmed ap­pear­ance of the king, who firmly crit­i­cised the in­de­pen­dency of Cataluña in a spe­cial tele­vised speech in Oc­to­ber. Even re­gional pres­i­dent Torra had backed the boy­cott.

How­ever, over the last week, crit­i­cism has been toned down and calls have been made for the day to fo­cus on the vic­tims and form­ing a united front against ter­ror­ism - not to ex­press po­lit­i­cal or na­tion­al­is­tic views.

The event will be­gin with a com­mem­o­ra­tive speech and a flower of­fer­ing at the Joan Miró pave­ment mu­ral on Las Ram­blas at 10.30. A march will lead to Plaza Cataluña where a poem will be read out in the seven lan­guages of the fatal vic­tims.

The vic­tims and their fam­i­lies will be seated in the front rows, with au­thor­i­ties to one side.

The at­tacks

At 17.00 on Au­gust 17, 2017, ji­hadist Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, drove through Las Ram­blas killing 13 peo­ple and in­jur­ing over 100. Later that night in Cam­brils, five other mem­bers of the ter­ror­ist cell killed a woman along the prom­e­nade be­fore they were shot dead by po­lice.

The num­ber of fatal vic­tims in­creased to 15 when it was dis­cov­ered that 34-year-old Pau Pérez, found stabbed the back seat of a car in San Just Desvern was ac­tu­ally killed by Younes as he tried to es­cape.

A 51-year-old Ger­man woman in­jured in Barcelona died 10 days later due to her in­juries.

The fatal vic­tims were from seven dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Six were Span­ish, three Ital­ian, two Por­tuguese, one Bel­gian, one Cana­dian, a US cit­i­zen and a seven-year-old boy with dual Bri­tish and Aus­tralian cit­i­zen­ship.

The youngest vic­tim was Xavi (aged three years), who died along­side his mother's un­cle, Fran­cisco López. Sev­enyear-old Ju­lian Cad­man, who had joint Bri­tish and Aus­tralian cit­i­zen­ship, died in hos­pi­tal.

The other vic­tims of the Las Ram­blas ram­page were: Pepita Co­d­ina, 75, from Barcelona; 40year-old Silv­ina Ale­jan­dra Pereyra, a Spa­niard born in Ar­gentina; Elke Van­bock­ri­jck, 44, from Bel­gium; Ital­ians Bruno Gul­lota, 35, and Luca Russo, 25; 80-year-old Car­men Lopardo from Ar­gentina; US cit­i­zen Jared Tucker, 42; Cana­dian Ian Moore Wil­son; and a 74-year-old Por­tuguese grand­mother and her grand-daugh­ter, 20.

Ana María Suarez, 67, from Zaragoza, was the only vic­tim killed by the ter­ror­ists in Cam­brils and was on hol­i­day on the Costa Do­rada.

The Cam­brils ter­ror­ists tried to es­cape a po­lice check near the har­bour and even­tu­ally turned the car up­side down in their es­cape. The man­aged to get out of the ve­hi­cles and stabbed sev­eral peo­ple - killing one woman - along the prom­e­nade be­fore they were shot dead.

In Barcelona, the burst­ing of the airbag when Younes hit a post­card stall in Las Ram­blas had put a stop to his ram­page. He man­aged to es­cape dur­ing the con­fu­sion and CCTV cam­eras checked later by po­lice show he ran to Les Bo­queries mar­ket.

From there he con­tin­ued ap­prox­i­mately five kilo­me­tres on foot to the univer­sity area of Barcelona, where he stabbed Pau Pérez to death to hi­jack his Ford Fo­cus car.

He en­coun­tered a po­lice check and tried to es­cape. Of­fi­cers fired shots but did not hit him; how­ever, they pur­sued the car and fi­nally found it in nearby Sant Just Desvern. When they found Pau Pérez dead in the back seat, their at­ten­tion fo­cused on him and all trace of Younes was lost un­til Mon­day af­ter­noon.

A lo­cal res­i­dent in Su­bi­rats spot­ted Younes Ab­boy­aaqoub and po­lice tracked him down to the road that goes to Sant Sadurní d'Anoia (in Cava coun­try).

Younes tried to es­cape through the vine­yards but could not out­run po­lice. When they fi­nally caught up with him he opened his jacket to re­veal an ex­plo­sive belt (later proved fake) and shouted ' Alahhu Ak­bar' (Ala is great) be­fore he was gunned down by of­fi­cers.

As a re­sult of the at­tacks, se­cu­rity was tight­ened in many towns and ci­ties across Spain.

Many towns on the Costa Blanca in­stalled con­crete bol­lards and planters to im­pede the pas­sage of ve­hi­cles through pedes­tri­anised ar­eas, while ar­eas where crowds gather are be­ing sub­jected to in­creased sur­veil­lance.

'No Tenim Por'

The very night of the at­tacks min­utes of si­lence were held in prac­ti­cally ev­ery town in Spain to show sol­i­dar­ity toward Barcelona.

The next day an es­ti­mated 100,000 peo­ple at­tended a demon­stra­tion, which saw po­lit­i­cal par­ties and even cen­tral and Cata­lan re­gional gov­ern­ments put their dif­fer­ences to one side to form a united front to con­demn the at­tack and show sol­i­dar­ity to­wards vic­tims.

A minute of si­lence was held and was bro­ken to the cry: "No tenim por" (We are not afraid), which be­came the city's slo­gan to over­come the mas­sacre.

Las Ram­blas was re­opened to pedes­tri­ans the very morn­ing after the at­tacks and the Miró pave­ment mu­ral - near where the van fi­nally stopped - be­came a trib­ute site where thou­sands of can­dles, flow­ers, cards and mes­sages have been placed.

In­ves­ti­ga­tion

The chief of the Cata­lan po­lice (Mos­sos d'Es­quadra) ap­peared be­fore the press the fol­low­ing Mon­day to clearly state: "All mem­bers of the ter­ror­ist cell are ei­ther dead or have been ar­rested."

The at­tacks were later linked to an ex­plo­sion that com­pletely de­mol­ished a house in Al­ca­nar, a small vil­lage in Tar­rag­ona prov­ince close to the bor­der with Castel­lón, the pre­vi­ous Wed­nes­day (two days be­fore the at­tacks).

The four de­tainees were Driss Ouk­abir (28), Mo­hamed Aalla (27), Salh El Karib (34) ar­rested in Ripoll (Gerona) shortly after the at­tacks and Mo­hamed Houli Chem­lal (21) who was in­jured in the Al­ca­nar house ex­plo­sion where the cell were pre­par­ing a much greater mas­sacre with ex­plo­sives.

The judge im­me­di­ate im­pris­oned Driss Ouk­abir and Mo­hamed Houli Chem­lal for their di­rect in­volve­ment in the at­tacks.

Mo­hamed Aalla was re­leased pend­ing fur­ther en­quiries as the pro­pri­etor of the Audi A3 the ter­ror­ists were driv­ing in Cam­brils, how­ever the own­er­ship was due to in­sur­ance rea­sons and the real owner was his brother Said - who was killed by po­lice on the prom­e­nade.

The fourth de­tainee, Salh El Karib, was re­manded in cus­tody pend­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions. El Karib is the owner of a lo­cal cy­ber­café pro­vid­ing tele­phone ser­vices in Ripoll. Ac­cord­ing to the judge his only link so far to the cell is that he used his credit card to pur­chase air­line tick­ets for two of the de­ceased ji­hadists.

The ter­ror­ists shot in Cam­brils were Moussa Ouk­abir (17, the youngest mem­ber of the cell), Said Aal­laa (18), Mo­hamed Hy­chami (24), Omar Hy­chami (21) and El Hous­saine Abouyaaqoub (19). One of­fi­cer, a for­mer mem­ber of the Span­ish Le­gion and whose iden­tity has not been dis­closed, shot four of them.

One of the key fig­ures in the at­tacks was Imam Ab­del­baky Es Satty, who died ma­nip­u­lat­ing ex­plo­sives at the house in Al­ca­nar. Al­though he had no po­lice record for ter­ror­ism, his name ap­peared in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion car­ried out against ji­hadists in 2011.

It was later re­vealed that he served a sen­tence in Castel­lón prison for drug traf­fick­ing from 2010 un­til Jan­uary 2014.

He had also lived in Vil­vo­orde, near Brus­sels (Bel­gium) from Jan­uary to March 2016 - where he may have been in con­tact with ji­hadists and tried to get em­ploy­ment as an imam there.

Es Satty car­ried out an ' ex­press in­doc­tri­na­tion' of the men who be­came ji­hadists within a few months.

De­spite the ma­jor­ity of its mem­bers liv­ing in Ripoll, the cell pre­pared the at­tacks at a house on the Mon­te­carlo ur­ban­i­sa­tion in Al­ca­nar.

Po­lice dis­cov­ered that the ter­ror­ists were pre­par­ing home­made TATP, a very volatile ex­plo­sive used by IS and nick­named 'Satan's mother' for which they re­quired a large amount of bu­tane and propane gas bot­tles.

TATP was used in the 2016 at­tack on Brus­sels air­port and metro. It is very sen­si­tive to fric­tion and heat, which could have caused the blast that de­stroyed the house.

That blast changed all their plans and avoided what could have been a much larger mas­sacre.

Po­lice ini­tially be­lieved it was caused by an ac­ci­den­tal gas ex­plo­sion, the events of the fol­low­ing day linked it to the ter­ror­ists, es­pe­cially when over 100 bot­tles of gas were even­tu­ally found among the de­bris.

It ap­pears they had been pre­par­ing the at­tack for sev­eral months steal­ing or buy­ing gas bot­tles and other el­e­ments needed to fab­ri­cate TATP.

The ter­ror­ist plans would have been to det­o­nate huge amounts of TATP to cause a mas­sacre sim­i­lar to that of the 11-M train at­tacks in Madrid.

Two ter­ror­ists died at the Al­ca­nar house blast: Imam Ab­del­baki Es Satty and Youssef Aal­laa.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve the cell mem­bers feared po­lice would soon dis­cover the truth among the house de­bris, so they rapidly acted to rent the ve­hi­cles and car­ried out the at­tacks on Thurs­day.

They hired three vans and at­tached fake ex­plo­sive jack­ets to them­selves. Two were found after the at­tacks, in Cam­brils and Vic.

Younes Abouyaaqoub drove the third van to Barcelona and car­ried out the Las Ram­blas mas­sacre while an­other five ter­ror­ists planned to do like­wise in a car along the prom­e­nade in Cam­brils.

All cell mem­bers were Moroc­can na­tion­als ex­cept for Mo­hamed Houli Chem­lal who was born in Melilla.

Sol­i­dar­ity march - but pol­i­tics got in the way

Eleven days after the at­tacks (Au­gust 26), King Felipe, ac­com­pa­nied by Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy and the Cata­lan leader Car­les Puigde­mont, led an es­ti­mated half-a-mil­lion peo­ple in a demon­stra­tion against ter­ror­ism

It was the first time that a Span­ish head of state has par­tic­i­pated in such an event and the King was joined by thou­sands of Mus­lims and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from ev­ery re­gional and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment in the coun­try. Re­peated cries of “No tinc por” (“I'm not afraid” in the Cata­lan lan­guage) were heard through­out the event.

How­ever, some Cata­lan sep­a­ratist fac­tions in the crowd jeered the King and PM Ra­joy dur­ing the event. The po­lit­i­cal use of such a trib­ute was widely crit­i­cised not only in Spain, but also in the in­ter­na­tional me­dia.

How­ever, it had lit­tle im­pact on the Cata­lan in­de­pen­dency bid that reached its cli­max a few months later when Pres­i­dent Puigde­mont pro­claimed uni­lat­eral in­de­pen­dence.

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